How to Topgrade Those Pesky Millennials

Introduction: For starters, stop referring to them as “pesky” or … spoiled, overly entitled, lazy, self-centered, lacking in loyalty, lacking in resourcefulness, afraid of accountability, hard to manage, and pesky (oops, already said that).

Topgrading, Inc., clients all over the world are struggling to cope with “Millennials” — employees mainly in their twenties.  To lessen hiring Millennials, some are hiring older people, retaining older workers longer, attempting to “train” Millennials to be more like their traditional workers, and … fretting a lot.  They just haven’t figured out a strategy to cope — much less a strategy to thrive.

Before I dive further into this article, I’d like to thank Chip Espinoza (Managing the Millennials: Discover the Core Competencies for Managing Today’s Workforce) for helping edit this article.

Millennials Are Taking Over The World. It’s simple demographics — populations of most western countries are aging, and the Millennials (those born approximately between 1983 and 2001) will dominate the workforce in the next 5 years. Millennials are all over social media, blogging 24/7 and letting their 1,000 “friends” know which companies are great to work for and which companies are stuck in the old ways that make working for them less attractive.

Bottom Line:  Embrace Millennial values or else you may end up hiring C Player Millennials.  Believe it, or not, you might see the C Players as more attractive to hire because you perceive them to “know their place.” The A Players want to have a voice from day one, and they want to make their mark on your organization. You can easily spot them because they are always challenging processes, strategies, and their managers. It may be time to make a concerted effort to alter your organizational culture by shifting the conversation about Millennials to a conversation with Millennials to get the best of what they can offer.  It is not only about recruiting and retention, but innovation, too! Do it … or suffer.

Why Millennials are “Different.” They have been reared by “helicopter” parents who told them they ARE very special. They got trophies whether they sat on the bench or kicked most of the goals. Mom and Dad helped with their homework and did their science projects for them. When they got in trouble, Mom and Dad would plead their case to teachers, principals, and police (“C’mon, kids will be kids”). Instead of mowing lawns or working at McDonald’s, and learning the value of work disciplines, they attended special camps to learn techie things and painting (for their fulfillment). Oh, and you know how techie they are – devoting hours and hours every day to Facebook, video games, and texting. Their texting ways has made them socially challenged when it comes to face-to-face communication. Okay, not every Millennial had helicopter parents or struggles with face-to-face communication, but all are perceived the same way in the workplace.

At job fairs, companies find they have to announce in advance that parents are not welcome, otherwise Mom and Dad increasingly show up to say to recruiters why their kid IS so special. Universities have “parent bouncers” on orientation day for the same reason. Once hired, you can bet your pension if Olivia is passed-over for promotion, Mom or Dad will call to convince you why your decision is wrong. Google has a Parent’s Day so you can bring a parent to work. Enterprise lets parents in on the negotiations when recruiting new hires. Adaptation is the name of the game.

So What Do Millennials Want? According Chip Espinoza in his forthcoming book Millennials@Work: The 7 Skills Every Twenty-Something Needs To Overcome Roadblocks and Achieve Greatness at Work, here is the Millennial Top Ten of what they want at work:

  • To be listened to
  • To be accepted
  • To be rewarded for work
  • To be promoted faster
  • To know how they are doing
  • To know what is expected of them
  • To have a good relationship with older workers
  • To have a say in how they do their job
  • To be recognized
  • To blend work and life

Millennials desire honest, frequent feedback, coaching, mentoring, the ability to use their tech skills, and they want to make a difference – save the world.  Having been praised 24/7 all their life, they want positive recognition, and they do not want anything resembling harsh criticism.

They do not want to be told they have to conform to traditional bureaucracies, work specific hours, conform to traditional dress codes, or be forced into doing the job the old way; when applying for jobs they tend not to research companies and jobs in order to be able to say how they might make a contribution. They want the company to guarantee their happiness and job satisfaction … and if the company doesn’t, they will look for a job elsewhere.  Also, don’t be surprised if you feel like you are the one being interviewed when it comes to vetting potential hires.

How To Topgrade Millennials: Use all the Topgrading Tools

  • Recruit them to save the world.  Show them how your business contributes to good in the world.
  • Show them the Job Scorecard, with clear performance accountabilities.  They want to be measured in a “friendly” way. They want clear and timely feedback.
  • Ask them to complete the Topgrading Career History Form; our software designers will enable them to import their resume … and just add responses to Topgrading questions and unique company application questions.   Millennials love to share their career history (even if it’s just summer jobs and internships).
  • Conduct the Tandem Topgrading Interview.  This is a walk down memory lane;  A Player Millennials will love explaining accomplishments, and they will reveal what motivates and interests them when answering questions about why they took jobs, what they liked and disliked, and why they left.  Loyalty to companies is not likely to be very high unless their needs are met (being promoted, being heard, being recognized, being rewarded, being valued, being appreciated, being a part of the team).
  • Create an Individual Development Plan as soon as they are hired.  The sine qua non to attracting and keeping Millennials is to have a plan for their career development. This is standard Topgrading – you have a ton of useful information, so in the first month…
  • … Coach, mentor, and train them to help them follow through on their Individual Development Plan so they grow, contribute, have fun, and save the world.

Conclusion: To succeed as business leaders we all embraced the Internet and social media, and we can understand, embrace, and effectively manage Millennials.

Published March 25, 2014

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